The Patna High Court, in a recent order, reprimanded Bihar police officers for not showing “application of mind” and “taking insensitive nature of action” while dealing with cases lodged under Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act. In its order in a civil writ jurisdiction case last month, the court said the “chief secretary should explain to us as to why such action is being taken which is not only creating difficulties to the citizen at large, but is also multiplying litigation as a result, the courts are flooded with litigation of this nature”.
A division bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice Anil Kumar Upadhyay was hearing a case of North Bengal State Transport Corporation (NBSTC) versus Government of Bihar through excise department principal secretary. A bus of NBSTC had been seized by Begusarai police because a passenger was found to be carrying a bottle of liquor in his luggage.
Reprimanding police, the bench said: “In our view, if that was the position and when the bus belongs to a statutory corporation, the officers should not have taken the extreme step of seizing the vehicle and initiate confiscation proceedings against the bus”.
The court said in its order: “We are constrained to pass this order and issue notice to the chief secretary on account of sensitive nature of action being taken by the officers of the state government in the matter of implementing the Bihar Prohibition and Excise Act, 2016. Day in and day out, we are faced with the situation wherein for offence said to have been committed under the prohibition, actions are being taken by the officers concerned in a manner which does not show application of mind, analysing of the facts in a proper manner, in fact mechanical actions are being taken without taking note of the seriousness of the action, as a consequence thereof, citizens not only of this state but other states are to suffer”.
The court cited the example of a bank officer from Noida, who was transferred to West Bengal and transported household goods through a carrier that was also transporting goods of other customers. When the vehicle was passing through Bihar, some liquor bottles were seized from it.
“Instead of proceeding against the owner of the vehicle and the driver, the entire household goods of the bank officer was seized…. If the officers responsible had analysed the facts properly, inconvenience to the citizen stationed in Noida, who was transporting the household goods to Calcutta on transfer could have been avoided,” said the court.
In subsequent hearings, the court ordered release of the NBSTC bus, rejecting the Bihar government’s argument that intelligence reports suggested complicity of private bus operators with NBSTC officials.